Chesapeake Bay

Change for the Chesapeake

As a conservation organization situated in the heart of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium recognizes its responsibility to protect its local aquatic resources—and that starts with the Chesapeake Bay and its vast watershed. But we can’t do it alone. The Chesapeake needs your help. Join us in our efforts to protect our greatest resource.

What is the Chesapeake and Why is it Important?

It might seem like you have nothing in common with a backyard box turtle, geese grazing in a local field or the fish that may eventually make it onto your plate, but you’re all connected in one critical way: You share the same water. The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and one of the largest in the world. Its watershed—the land that drains into the Bay or into the rivers, creeks or streams connected to it—is home to more than 17 million people and 2,700 species of animals, all of which depend on a healthy Bay for survival.

Beyond the diverse habitats it provides for wildlife in the area, the Chesapeake Bay serves another critical purpose: It’s the foundation of our local economy. It’s home to two of the five major shipping ports in the North Atlantic and supplies us with the seafood and recreational activities that fuel our local businesses. Imagine a summer on the Chesapeake with no swimming, fishing or boating! In order to continue reaping the benefits of the Bay, we need to take responsibility for its conservation.

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How We’re Changing the Chesapeake

At the National Aquarium, we’re working to protect the watershed and restore natural areas that help clean our water. We’ve formed partnerships with regional and national organizations to revitalize tidal wetlands through cleanups and habitat restoration projects. Every spring and fall, we recruit volunteers to restore habitat for wildlife, remove debris and maintain trails at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore. In Masonville Cove, we’re planting thousands of native wetland grasses—14,000 already in 2014!—to create a healthier habitat for local wildlife. And in Nassawango Creek Preserve, we’re bringing back the Atlantic white cedar, a rare tree that gradually disappeared when the wetlands it depended on were drained.


Our many hands-on education programs convey a message of hope to generations young and old: There’s still time for change, and every effort counts. We aim to instill in the community a sense of responsibility and empowerment regarding conservation issues, such as those surrounding the Chesapeake Bay. There’s strength in numbers, and we can ensure a healthy future for the Bay and its watershed by working together to preserve and restore it today.



How You Can Get Involved

Join us and other volunteers as we team up to restore the Bay! The Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) provides volunteers like you with hands-on opportunities to help restore habitats, learn about watershed dynamics and develop the knowledge and skills to serve as participants and leaders in environmental stewardship.



Volunteer for a cleanup, help us plant native grasses and shrubs in local wetlands or join us as we restore habitats and stabilize coastal sand dunes. Sign up for our conservation newsletter to get all the latest updates, and check out our schedule to learn about upcoming events.

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Your support helps us protect the world's aquatic treasures.

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Conservation Events

September 23rd, 2014- Fresh Thoughts Dinner

October 11th, 2014- Masonville Cove Field Day

October 25th, 2014- Fort McHenry Field Day

November1st, 2014- Farring-Baybrook Park Tree Planting

What You Can Do at Home

Your everyday activities play a major role in the health of the Bay. Keep these best practices in mind to ensure a bright future for the Chesapeake:

Reduce runoff.

Whether it’s coming off your roof when it rains or out of the hose in the front yard as you wash your car, runoff poses a real risk to the Bay. As this excess water runs across the land and into the nearest waterway, it takes with it watershed pollutants, such as animal waste, residential fertilizers and herbicides, plastic trash and tarmac toxins. Do your part by installing rain barrels to catch stormwater, creating a rain garden to collect rainwater runoff, disposing of pet waste and planting native plants that don’t require watering or fertilizing.


Properly dispose of waste.

Take chemicals to designated disposal sites instead of dumping them down storm drains. The water that flows through storm drains isn’t cleaned by a water treatment plant and is carried from local streams into the Bay.


Reduce your carbon footprint.

What does your commute have to do with our local waterways? A lot. Burning fossil fuels sends carbon dioxide into the air and ultimately into waterways, compounding the harmful effects of climate change and acidifying waters. Reduce your impact by purchasing local products and taking mass transit, walking or biking whenever possible. You can also decrease your household energy consumption by lowering your thermostat, turning off the lights when they’re not in use and replacing incandescent lamps with fluorescent bulbs. The Bay—and your wallet—will thank you.


Prevent plastic pollution.

The plastic that gets washed into the Chesapeake hurts its animal inhabitants. Limit your use of plastics by using reusable containers, bags and water bottles, and recycle what plastic you do use.


Limit your use of harmful chemicals.

Here’s a scary fact: Of the 17,000 petroleum-based chemical cleaners available for home use, only 30 percent have been tested for their effect on human health and the environment. Choosing a natural cleaner lessens potential risks to your health and our waterways.


Choose sustainable seafood.

Overfishing and overharvesting are rapidly diminishing seafood populations worldwide. Choose the most sustainable options, whether you’re at the market or eating at a restaurant. Need some help figuring out what’s sustainable and what’s not? Consult a well-researched guide, such as Blue Ocean Institute’s Seafood Guide, Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (also has a great app!), NOAA’s FishWatch or WWF’s Global Sustainable Seafood Consumer Guides.


Get out there and enjoy the watershed!

The more you learn to appreciate the Bay and its watershed, the more you’ll be inspired to protect it. Check out the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network for a guide to parks and natural areas near you.

Conservation Site Map

Map of the Chesapeake Bay

What's in Your Crab Cake?

Blue Crab

Learn About Seafood Labeling

According to a recent study by Oceana, 33% of the seafood purchased in the United States is mislabeled.

Gardening for Wildlife

Support wildlife and clean water, create your own backyard habitat and certify it with the National Wildlife Federation and National Aquarium. Provide unique experiences for yourself and your family to observe wildlife in your own back yard!

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